Architecture Exhibitions International

Het Nieuwe Instituut Rotterdam

Lithium

Sep 20, 2020–Apr 11, 2021
Lithium, Het Nieuwe Instituut, 2020. Photo: Johannes Schwartz.

Conceived as a spa resort, the exhibition Lithium highlights the beneficial and destructive aspects of the eternal human search for energy. Researchers, designers and artists reflect on the role of the chemical element lithium in powering today’s economy. How many times can we recharge our batteries without addressing the causes of depletion, in both human bodies and the planet?

Lithium powers laptops and electric cars. It treats physical and mental disorders. Since its discovery in 1817, this metal has been a vital resource for energising the planet, playing a fundamental role in maintaining our current capitalist economy. Yet, at the same time, lithium has aggravated the burn-out of ecosystems and human bodies.

Staged as a mineral spa, the exhibition Lithium invites visitors to experience the states of exhaustion and revitalisation to which bodies are subjected in today’s economy. Here visitors are encouraged not to look for the nearest socket to charge their phones, but to recharge themselves through a series of lithium treatments.

Our continued search for energy cures can, nevertheless, exacerbate the problem. After all, how many times can our batteries be recharged? This exhibition, therefore, exposes the destructive effects of lithium technologies and industries that lead to ecological devastation, the dispossession of Indigenous peoples, and forms of social control through mass medication. In doing so, Lithium aims to spark a debate on larger questions of burn-out and productivity in relation to the human body and the planet.

With contributions from David Habets, Cameron Hu, Stefan Schäfer, Juan Arturo García, Nicolás Jaar, Maarten Meij, Godofredo Enes Pereira, Lithium Triangle Studio (Mingxin Li, Antonio Del Giudici, Yvette Waweru, Melis Goksan), Mingxin Li with Anabel Garcia-Kurland, Alice Wong and others. The exhibition features interviews with Alonso Barros, Cristina Dorador and Rolando Humire. The spatial design of the exhibition is by Katrin Bombe and the graphic identity of the project was developed by Austin Redman.